Designing and Making a Zebra Mask With Simple Materials

Introduction: Designing and Making a Zebra Mask With Simple Materials

About: I am a queer, transgender, nonbinary, and mixed-race picture book writer/illustrator. As a young person, I didn’t have the words to explain the big feelings I had about my identity and relationships. It is s...

In anticipation of Strut!, a parade that we will be having in Madison, WI celebrating the coming together of community and sharing of knowledge, we wanted to design some masks that anyone can easily print and make. The masks were inspired by zebras, but we wanted people to be able to color them in any way they wished.

The PDF file for this mask is attached as well as instructions for designing your own.

Materials needed:

  • Printer
  • paper
  • markers
  • cereal box or cardstock
  • scissors
  • stapler, glue, or tape

Or if you want to design your own, optionally Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and inDesign.

This was done in collaboration with the UW- Madison Arts Institute and Madison Children's Museum. Special thanks to Laura Anderson Barbata, Laurie Rossbach, Jennika Bastian, and STRUT!

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Step 1: Designing a Mask and Converting to Vector

We wanted to make a mask that could be printed on 8.5x11 paper, but still had depth. Madison Children's Museum staff made the initial sketches of a mask, first with pencil and carefully folding and unfolding until the mask was the appropriate shape. When we finished the design, the mask was untaped and traced onto a new piece of paper. From there, the mask was inked with permanent marker and photographed.

In order to print the mask easily, we wanted to convert the mask to vector format, so I cleaned up the image first in Photoshop before importing to Illustrator.

  1. Open in Photoshop.
  2. Use the quick selection (not magic wand) to select the areas that aren't part of the mask.
  3. With the parts you don't want selected (I find it easier than selecting the lines themselves), make a layer mask.
  4. Click the mask and press command/ctrl +i to inverse the layer mask (white shows up, black doesn't)
  5. If you're having trouble, you can play with levels (see images) to increase contrast.
  6. Save and open in Illustrator. (You can copy merged then paste)
  7. Image trace as silhouette
  8. Using the line tool, add dashed lines so people know where to cut and fold.
  9. To make an outline of the entire shape, duplicate your layer and group (cmd/ctrl + g). Move your group to it's own layers then use effect>pathfinder>add. Then choose your outline color and appearance.
  10. Save.
  11. Open inDesign and place your images (file>place or cmd/ctrl + D)
  12. Make sure the sizing is appropriate and within the print guides
  13. Export as PDF & share!

If you don't have access to Adobe Creative Suite, you could also just scan your inked drawings and make copies. They won't be quite as clean looking, but it'll do the job.

Step 2: Color, Cut, and Fold!

We printed on regular 8.5x11 paper then glued to card stock. You could also either print directly onto cardstock or glue onto a cereal box.

  1. Color your pictures (great for kids)
  2. Cut the outlines.
  3. For ears, cut along the dotted line and and gently move one flap behind the other so that the ear becomes concave.
  4. Staple ears to the main mask
  5. There are three main sections in the snout. Bring the part with square edges together. Overlap and staple.
  6. Fold the middle section down on top and staple.
  7. Staple or glue the wavy edges to the outside of the main mask.
  8. Cut along the dotted lines on the outside edges of the mask.
  9. Fold outside edges under the middle flap and staple.
  10. Staple ribbon or elastic to the edges of the mask so you can put it on a face.


This was done in collaboration with the UW- Madison Arts Institute and Madison Children's Museum. Special thanks to Laura Anderson Barbata, Laurie Rossbach, and Jennika Bastian, and STRUT!

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4 years ago

Thanks for the info I will use that in the others that I will make.